Learning SharePoint at USPJA. Part 3: Our Philosophy

I was going through the USPJA web pages and noticed that we hadn’t really focused enough on what our ideas are. As such, I wrote a new page containing an overview of our ideas, and thought it would make sense to post those ideas here as well.

As I have mentioned previously in this series, I’m not saying that class room training is a bad idea, but I think the ideas we have solves some of the problems of traditional class room training. For some, class room training is the only thing that works, and of course, having something else then is not going to give you anything.

However, I am a huge lover of freedom and I have a tendency to do things my way. If you are anything like me in that respect, you may value the freedom that USPJA provides too.

Here’s what I posted on the new page:

We know that you are extremely busy. If you are in the SharePoint industry already, your days are probably already filled with plenty of work.

On the other hand, you also need to stay up-to-date on new technologies and methods. That takes time, a commodity that is too scarce already.

Traditional SharePoint training happens in class rooms, in which an instructor leads a number of participants through a pre-determined curriculum. However, there are massive drawbacks to this approach:

  • You need to take time off your already busy schedule, usually the entire day or days, while the training lasts.
  • You need to attend at fixed dates and must find someone to replace you or postpone your regular projects.
  • You need to travel to a training location or at the very least have a trainer come to you and provide location and equipment for training yourself.
  • You get a fixed curriculum only – if you are a visual learner but the course only provides text content, your efficiency will drop.
  • If you want to stop a class to explore something else, you need to pay for and attend a different class.
  • If you find that the class isn’t right for you, you still have to pay and you have to pay again to take another class.
  • If you have a bad day and can’t concentrate, or become ill and have to stay home, you still have to pay, even if you don’t get any training value.
  • You learn everything within a short timespan and are expected to retain all knowledge – if you forget something, you need to pay for and retake the class.
  • After a training course is done, you’re on your own and have little or no support from the instructor or from your fellow students.

In short, the training provider determines when you learn, where you learn, what you learn, and how you learn.

Our philosophy is all about providing training on your terms. We want you to study what you want, when you want, where you want, and as much or as little as you want, without being financially punished for making these choices.

Studying at USPJA means:

  • You can study while you work and don’t need to take time off your regular responsibilities.
  • You can study whenever you want, both during the day, but also during the week. We have few real-time lectures or events, and those few we have are always recorded and made available.
  • You can study wherever you want – all our training happens online, and as long as you’re connected to the internet, you have full access to everything you need.
  • We provide multiple forms of content and you pick how you best learn, whether that is video lectures, text content, hands-on exercises, or guided assignments.
  • You can study any topic you want – all our training content is always available, 24/7/365.
  • If you want to stop a course and learn something different, it’s as easy as clicking a button.
  • You can spend as much or as little time as you want to learn and because the content remains available, you can revisit it at any time.
  • You pay only your tuition, regardless of how much you study, how many classes you take, whether you abort a class, or whether you study one hour a day or all day.
  • After you complete any of your training efforts, you are still part of the community, the faculty is still here to help you, and you’ll meet your fellow students the next day.

In short, our ideas mean that you, as a student, are in control of how you want to learn, what, when, and where you want to learn, without being penalized for having that freedom.

You can safely explore different methods of learning, whether that is taking classes, doing self-paced courses, exploring content in the library, trying out your ideas in our labs, or any of the other options we provide.

Because you pay a fixed tuition per month, you can do all of this without being afraid of losing money if what you try doesn’t work for you.

You choice is really whether you want freedom or just want to tag along with what someone else has chosen for you.

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Learning SharePoint at USPJA. Part 2: USPJA Versus Traditional SharePoint Training

Today, I was talking to one author in the USPJA system, explaining why our teaching methods are different than what you’d find in traditional learning formats.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that class room training is better or worse than what we do, but we do have different approaches to building knowledge.

First of all, USPJA is a university, meaning our approach to teaching is more like a traditional college than a normal computer class. What that also means is that we are more focused on pointing the way rather than explaining how to walk. Although not directly the same, it would be closer to saying to a class room that “Here’s what you’re going to learn this week. Here are some recommended resources, and here’s what I expect you to be able to do after you’re done. Now, get started!”

A very important philosophy of USPJA is to build SharePoint professionals. A good SharePoint professional, however, isn’t measured by how many tasks he or she can perform, but rather how well they are able to understand a problem space and apply good practices to solving that problem. We teach people how to find, utilize, and digest information more than we teach specific steps.

Of course, this isn’t the only thing we teach, there’s plenty of step-by-step instructions, videos, books, and journals, meant both to illustrate key learning points and to inspire creativity. However, you’ll find few recipes for solving specific problems at USPJA. Our faculty members are even encouraged to avoid answering specific questions even if they know the answer. Instead they should direct the student to where they can find the information they need, either in our own library or in external sources. This in turn teaches the student to be self-sufficient and from that, gain confidence and knowledge that last long after the stop studying at the academy.

For example, rather than teaching how to build a client taxonomy in SharePoint, we’ll teach you the tools you need, explain the principles of a good taxonomy, and show you how different components of SharePoint work together to support any type of taxonomy. We’ll show you or provide you with the resources you need. Then, if you want to implement a client taxonomy or any other type of taxonomy, you’ll know how to do so.

One of the team assignments for my class in Beginning SharePoint Development basically reads: “To complete the team assignments for this class, you should first come up with a problem to solve, then solve that problem using all the major components taught in this class.” From that, the students need to work together to come up with a problem that SharePoint can solve, and then design and implement the solution using what they learn and find during the class.

So, in other words, we’re not teaching recipes, we’re teaching how to be chefs :-)

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Brilliant SharePoint Administrator Wanted: USPJA Faculty Substitute

Please help me spread the word.

Laura Docherty is a USPJA Faculty member and highly pregnant, due to give birth in just a month or so. As such, she’s taken a maternity leave from her faculty duties at the academy, and I need to find her temporary replacement.

Here’s the ad:

Wanted: USPJA Administrator Faculty Member

For temporary or permanent substitution, we are looking for a new USPJ Academy faculty member in the field of SharePoint administration. 

Job Description

USPJ Academy faculty members are highly skilled and experienced SharePoint professionals and trainers. Our focus is on providing the best quality training available online using our existing state-of-the-art e-learning platform.

A USPJA faculty member is responsible for facilitating online collaborative classes for students at USPJ Academy plus actively participating in the academy community. Course facilitation means working with existing course material and assist students in their learning goals in time-limited online classes. All activities happen online and asynchronously so no real-time participation is required in classes.

Faculty members will be trained in our operations and platform and are expected to adhere to our faculty and campus guidelines.

This job is a temporary replacement for another faculty member who is on maternity leave. However, for the right candidate, the position may become permanent. The position is vacant now so you should expect to being work quickly.

Expected work load is 10-15 hours per week, so you can work in other positions and for other employers as your time permits.

Responsibilities

You will be responsible for facilitating collaborative classes using existing training material. This means you will be required to be regularly responding to student feedback in class, guide students that need further clarification (although not necessarily provide answers), as well as function as an overall mentor for the duration of the class. This includes providing or referencing additional training material for students who may need that.

You will not be responsible for creating course content, although you will have the opportunity to add or modify the course content as required. Suggestions for permanent changes to course content are welcomed.

You will also be required to actively participate in the academy community, primarily through the campus forums.

Finally, you must attend weekly, real-time faculty meetings, held each Monday at 1800 CET/CEST.

Qualifications

You are a highly skilled and probably recognized SharePoint administrator. Previous training experience, either in class-room or online environments, is a huge benefit, but not required.

Previous experience with e-learning solutions is a benefit, but not required. Community work, such as speaking engagements at local or national events is a benefit, but not required.

You must have documented experience with real-life projects.

You must speak and write English fluently.

You must be able to respond daily to students requests.

You must be available for weekly faculty meetings, Mondays at 1800 CET/CEST

USPJ Academy is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes all genders and nationalities.

Location

All USPJA activities happen online, so you can work from wherever you are. Your application should include your local time zone, however.

Application Deadline

Please submit your application no later than December 31st, 2010. We reserve the right to end the deadline sooner if we find the right candidate.

We will contact any eligible candidates for an interview as soon as time permits.

For candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements, we thank you for your application, but we can not accept you.

Application Instructions

Please submit a resume and application document to dean@uspja.com in Microsoft Word, PDF, or ODF format, using the subject “Faculty Member Application”. You can also submit an application using our online application form.

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